Reporter Volha Czajczyc and cameraman Andrus Kozel have been restricted from leaving the country.
The journalistic duo was summoned by court officer Yana Vasyuk who informed of the foreign travel ban imposed on them.
Czajczyc and Kozel showed her the receipts confirming their paying off all fines. However, the officer claimed she could not verify it since their database was ‘out of service’. In addition, she asked them to bring all fine pay receipts for the last year. According to Ms Vasyuk, the restriction may be lifted only after the database is in operation again. But at the moment, no one knows when it will happen.
Volha Czajczyc was about to go to Paris and meet with representatives of the International Federation of Journalists and the Reporters Without Borders next week. She was invited by French unions of journalists (SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT) and Reporters Without Borders. She also intended to be present at a number of Brussels-based events in the European Parliament and the European Commission and tell other participants about the mass media situation in Belarus.
The real cause for the ban is the Belarusian authorities’ instruction to prevent her from attending the meetings and revealing the truth from behind the scenes, the journalist believes.
On September 10, a judge of Dzyarzhynsk district court imposed a fine of 980 Belarusian rubles on Volha Czajczyc for making a photo report from picketing the restaurant Let’s Go And Eat in Kurapaty, a mass grave site near Minsk. What is more, on the same day she learned that the Slonim police drew a protocol upon her under article 22.9 of the Administrative Code.
It is the tenth time our colleague has got a monetary fine in 2018, and their total amount has reached BYN 8,330 (nearly $4,200).
Because of the work in the ‘partisan’ conditions, Belsat employees are often on trial for illegal production of media materials (Article 22.9) and work without accreditation. In 2017 alone, Belsat contributors paid to the state as much as $14,000 in fines. According to BAJ, last year, 94% of fines for alleged illegal manufacturing of media materials fell on the journalists of Belsat.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly declared that it could not issue any accreditation to Belsat because the journalists working for the TV station … break the law.
Thus, the circle closes: journalists are denied accreditation because they break the law and they break the law, because they work without accreditation that they seek. And it explains the existence of absurdist Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code, which provides punishment for ‘illegal production and distribution of media products’. If you have accreditation, you are allowed be a journalist. If you do not have it – you are outlawed.
For the year to date, fines exceeding $ 30,000 have been imposed on our journalists by the Belarusian authorities.